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John 8:12-30

 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." So the Pharisees said to him, "You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true." Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two men is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me." They said to him therefore, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also." These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

 

So he said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come." So the Jews said, "Will he kill himself, since he says, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." So they said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him." As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

(ESV)

Humbled Up 

John Gerhard, Theologian

21 August 2014

A great man who stoops to serve someone in need does not become lesser thereby, but greater. His contact with someone who is morally degraded does not degrade him, but raises him in the eyes of others. Although such noblesse oblige is virtually unknown today, his greatness is in no way diminished by such humility and willingness to bear the burdens of others. It is ironic then, that there were (are) those who think that Christ's assumption of human nature of the Virgin Mary involved His divine nature in an act that diminished or impaired His divinity, as though He becomes lesser by stooping to our need in the incarnation. This was the view that Christ's divinity was impaired by the incarnation was held by Nestorius of Antioch, who was reluctant to talk about a personal union of the two natures in Christ. Instead, the two natures only worked in parallel and the union was anything but personal. Nestorian Christology left the impression that the two natures were like two boards glued together and there was no interaction or communion between the two natures. In our time this gets an extreme expression in adoptionism.

 

Adoptionism is the theory that at His baptism Christ adopts the human nature of Jesus of Nazareth, only to abandon him at the cross so that His divine nature would not suffer death and its humiliation. Adoptionism attempts to save God from undergoing weakness, suffering, and humiliation. This is a laudable goal. We do not want to attribute to Christ anything that is unworthy of Him, to sully His holiness, or blaspheme His divinity. However, His main goal is not to free Himself from bad treatment by us. It would have been so easy to do so by declining to become incarnate at all. A God who wants to avoid humiliation and suffering at the hands of human needs to make no effort at all to do so. He simply declines to take human flesh and remains in the realm of glory receiving the eternal praise of the holy angels in heaven. The incarnation itself becomes foolish in a theology that is trying to save God, rather than letting God save us according to His divine Word.

 

Our attempt to keep the Only-begotten of the Father from being sullied by contact with humanity only cheats us humans of the proper effects of the work of God's Son to save sinners like us. God was willing that His Son should bear our flesh from His conception of the Virgin unto eternity that that flesh would be returned to us endowed with the holiness that comes from the personal union. If the two natures are not united in Christ, then the divinity of Christ does not really have any effect on the human nature; our human nature. If our human nature is not cleansed by the work of the one Son of God, who is Christ Jesus, we will be cast back upon our own efforts to cleanse our humanity unto salvation. The incarnation happens not to sully the divinity of Christ, but that we would be raised from the filth of our sin into the holiness which is earned by God's Son for us on the cross of Calvary. Just as the great man is not diminished by works of humility, the great God Christ is brought low that we might be raised up in Him, not that He might be deprived of His full divinity.

 

Cyril of Alexandria

 

"The Word from God the Father was called man, even though he was by nature God, because he partook of blood and flesh just like us (Heb 2:14). So He was seen by those who are on earth, and not letting go of what He was, He assumed human nature like ours, perfect as regards itself, and yet in human nature too. He has remained God and Lord of all, by nature and in truth begotten of God the Father. Most wise Paul clearly shows us this, for he says, 'The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven' (1Co 15:47). Although the holy Virgin bore the temple united to the Word, yet Emmanuel is said to be and is properly from heaven, for from above and out of the essence of God the Father was His Word begotten. John testified saying of Him, 'He who comes from heaven is above all' (Jn 3:31). Christ Himself said to the Jews, 'You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world' (Jn 8:23), although He was a man and called part of the world and yet as God He was above the world. He plainly says, 'No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man' (Jn 3:13). We say that the Son of Man came down from heaven by a union entered into for our salvation; the Word allotting to His own flesh the endowments of His glory and God-befitting perfection.

 

"God the Word, who was complete by nature and in every way perfect and distributing from His own fullness his own goods to the creature (Jn 1:16), was made nothing (Phil 2:7). By doing so He in no way offends against His own proper nature. His becoming nothing does not change Him so that He would become other than He is, nor is He made lesser. For He is unchangeable even as He who begot Him is unchangeable and incapable of suffering. But when He was made flesh, that is man, He made the poverty of human nature His own, as He said 'I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh' (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). He was made man while yet He remained God. He took the form of a servant and yet in His own divine nature was free. He himself is the Lord of glory and yet is said to receive glory. He Himself is life and yet was said to receive life. He receives power over all and yet Himself is king of all and with God. He was obedient to the Father and yet suffered on the cross and so on. These things befit the measure of the human nature, yet He makes them His own and with flesh fulfills our salvation, while remaining what He was."

 

Cyril of Alexandria, Scholia on the Incarnation of the Only-begotten, 4-5
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, You were made man and yet remained God. You took the form of a servant and yet were truly free. You are the Lord of glory and yet received glory. You are the life and yet received life. You received power over all and yet are King of kings and Lord of lords. You are obedient to the Father and yet suffered on the cross. Lift us from our sin that we might offer ourselves to those who need our help and lift them from their degradation. Amen.

 

For Jennifer Obermueller, that the Lord Jesus would guard keep her as she undergoes therapy for a brain tumor

 

For President Daniel Gard of Concordia University Chicago as he leads the university into the future God has planned for the university, that he would be strengthened and upheld in his labors by Christ, the Lord of the church

 

For the young people of the church, that we thank God for their faithful confession of the divine truth and their willingness to share Christ in the world 
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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